Businesses have been urged to be vigilant during the “silly season” to prevent an increase in the level of sexual harassment claims this Christmas.
Pent-up grievance and alcohol around the festive season makes an employee more likely to suffer some kind of bullying or harassment in the coming weeks and employers should be aware of their responsibilities to protect employees from such incidents, warns The Resolution Centre.
“When putting on Christmas parties, some companies are aware of the legislation and their legal responsibilities when it comes to sexual harassment and bullying, but it’s important to be proactive in averting any potential claims,” says Katherine Graham, managing director of the centre.
“For example, companies should be communicating clearly to staff the appropriate standards of behavior during work functions, preferably via written communication.”
Graham said there are many small-to-medium businesses that have no policies in place for codes of conduct, complaints handling and disciplining staff.
“Businesses need to understand legislation and have in place office guidelines that set out acceptable behavior and work practices,” she said.
“There are still many businesses that don’t have these human resources structures, so conflict happens and conflict escalates, and by the time we’re asked to come in and mediate, the proverbial has already hit the fan – with the conflict rippling throughout the entire company, affecting morale and the business’s reputation.”